Reading the stars as a new CEO

August 25, 2014

Reading the stars as a new CEO

New CEO stories interest me greatly. I just read this one which I will copy and paste into my deck on what new CEOs can do to quickly take charge and build legitimacy. The story appeared in an article in The Economist about Unilever and its CEO Paul Polman. The article is mostly about Unilever‘s Sustainable Living Plan which is hard at work lessening its social and environmental impact. But how Polman came to the plan as a new CEO deserves retelling here:

“SLEEPING in the open on top of his mansion was a nightly routine for William Lever, founder of what is now Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch consumer-goods giant. When Paul Polman became chief executive of the soap-to-ice-cream-maker in 2009 (joining from a Swiss rival, Nestlé), the Dutchman spent a night in Lever’s rooftop bed as part of a total immersion in the history of his new firm. It helped persuade him, a year later, to launch a “Sustainable Living Plan”, the name for his attempt to make Unilever the pre-eminent example of how to do capitalism responsibly, just as it had once been under Lever.”

Many CEOs go back in time to the foundation of the company hoping to find its greater purpose and truths that need to be upheld and repositioned for growth. This example of the new CEO of Unilever sleeping under the stars to uncover the company’s true north is one for the books.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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